THE CITY PAPER
Back to Tyrone Wells SHORT TAKES
By Ron Wynn, rwynn@nashvillecitypaper.com
April 19, 2007

Tyrone Wells
He grew up hearing only gospel, but Tyrone Wells eventually discovered the charm and lure of secular music. Yet there’s a distinct and rich inspirational underpinning that comes through in all his songs, though Wells, who’ll appear tonight at Mercy Lounge (9 p.m. One Cannery Row, $10, 321-2050) along with Leigh Nash, Ernie Halter and Carey Ott, also cites some surprising influences in his writing and singing.

“I love a lot of folk music in addition to soul and rock,” Wells said. “James Taylor is someone that I admire very much, both as a performer and as a songwriter.”

That side of his personality comes across most notably in the single “Dream Like New York” from his major-label debut Hold On. The tune’s mix of lush orchestration and teeming piano licks augmented by soulful, yet also deliberate singing that’s more in story mode than testimonial form, has found its way into both the animated film Everyone’s Hero (a devotional work on famed New York Yankee slugger Babe Ruth) and the trailers of The 50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden, a documentary on the storied entertainment and sports center.

Still, Wells can also belt lyrics and perform in the demonstrative manner of a vintage R&B or rock artist. The lead single from Hold On is a spirited, lyrically rousing tune “What Are We Fighting For?,” that recalls the classic protest works of the ‘60s in its multi-layered examination of political, cultural and romantic problems, though it’s upbeat, hopeful final stanza and chorus prevents it from becoming overwrought or somber.

Wells’ ability to do many types of songs was honed during his years working in Southern California coffeehouses. His determination to succeed doing his own tunes rather than hooking into current trends was evident in two previous dates Snapshot and Close Live. These were primarily acoustic sessions designed to showcase both his powerful voice and penchant for addressing both topical and personal issues.

Hold On also marks a major conceptual change for Wells. “It’s the first time that I did a complete band project, and I wanted to show that I could do aggressive, rocking songs just as well as more reflective or sentimental ones,” Wells said. “I really enjoy writing and performing all types of songs, but cutting the album allowed me to really try some things in the studio that I hadn’t attempted before, and also made me a more confident performer.”